A few years ago it was very common for prisoners to be able to pay to have their photo taken in order to send them out to family members. Some prisons also allowed this on a visit so that prisoners could have a photo of themselves with their family. However, in 2013, this was temporarily stopped by the Ministry of Justice so that they could hold a review in the wake of many prisoners uploading photos to facebook which had been taken illegally on camera phones which had been smuggled in.
The review found that the official taking of photos could continue and all prisons were notified that they could restart this procedure with immediate effect but Wakefield had different ideas and they did not restart this practice at all.
Later that year the partner of a Wakefield prisoner wrote in to Inside Time asking why Wakefield refused to take prisoners photos. The person who sent a reply for Inside Time to print was a staff officer to the Deputy Director of Custody and he wrote that prisoners can now have heir photo taken, including those at Wakefield, but that this can only usually be done on special occasions such as at the end of an offending behaviour program or on a family day visit. Since writing that letter the staff officer has changed jobs and now works here at Wakefield as a governor and as the head of residence.
This year, when I was notified that my application to attend the family day visit along with my mother was successful, I immediately applied to have a photo taken. The first form I submitted for this was a dedicated form available from the wing applications box bearing the title “Photographs of inmates for their personal use”. You can imagine my surprise then when the form was returned to me with a post-it note saying “We do not take photographs for prisoners at HMP Wakefield.” I submitted a further application explaining the situation and this time I received a reply from the family day coordinator saying she had checked with the governor and they definitely do not do photos here. Finally I spoke to the wing senior officer who told me that he would be having a meeting the following day with the very person who had written the letter to Inside Time saying photos were allowed at Wakefield on family days. I asked him to raise this with him, which he did, and he came back to tell me that the governor had told him I have to apply in writing to the governing governor in advance but that it is allowed in theory.
This is crazy. By the time I could have put an application in again, the visit would have already taken place. There was no practical opportunity to do this at all. It is something I have been considering challenging for some time, since I would love to have had an up to date photo of my me and my Mum together and it also would have been great to have had an up to date photo that I could put up on this site. However, now I think I have a better idea.
As all officers are issued with body-cams, which can be switched on and off as necessary they are becoming walking cameras. Anyone who is filmed on the prisons cameras can obtain a copy of the footage simply by making an application under the Data Protection Act. I will shortly be applying again to have a photo taken, but if this is refused I will simply approach any officer I see with their camera switched on and hold a conversation. I’ll then submit a data protection request and obtain a copy of the footage.
For me it is simple. If you don’t want to do something, don’t write in a national newspaper that that is exactly what can be done. And if you do write that, then you should expect to have to do it. Because that’s just what I’m going to make sure of.